The World Trade Organisation has confirmed that a specific article on consumer protection is to be included in a future international trade agreement on e-commerce.
The article would require WTO member countries to adopt or maintain measures that proscribe misleading, fraudulent and deceptive commercial activities that cause harm, or potential harm, to consumers engaged in electronic commerce. Members are required to endeavour to adopt or maintain measures that aim to ensure suppliers deal fairly and honestly with consumers and provide complete and accurate information on goods and services and to ensure the safety of goods and, where applicable, services during normal or reasonably foreseeable use. The article also requires members to promote consumer redress or recourse mechanisms.
While the article would not create new rights for consumers, consumer groups around the world say that this shows that governments understand the need to better protect consumers in a global online market.
There are, however, a range of other areas yet to be decided as part of the deal, which also impact consumers. Sensitive topics in the digital field, such as data protection and artificial intelligence, have yet to be discussed in the negotiations. The benefit or not of a revised WTO agreement on e-commerce will depend on the outcome of these negotiations.
Australia is a co-convenor of the WTO e-commerce negotiations, along with Japan and Singapore.
Earlier this year, CFA held a member webinar which provided information about the proposed agreement on e-commerce, and what it may mean for consumers. You can view the webinar below or on YouTube.
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